26 January 2007

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Michel Platini was elected President of UEFA ahead of incumbent Lennart Johansson this morning. I can’t say I’m thrilled (I certainly would have voted for Johansson), but hopefully, Platini will come to realize it’s a figurehead position and won’t attempt to bring his proposed changes to the European game.

The cause for this concern is Platini’s constantly stated proposal to limit countries to three teams in the Champions League. According to the incoming President, England, Italy, and Spain should no longer receive 4 Champions League places, TV revenue and G-14 be damned. This year, Arsenal, Osasuna, and Chievo Verona wouldn’t have made the Champions League. Osasuna and Chievo were admittedly surprises, and on face value, might not deserve to be in the tournament as neither qualified for the group stages, but it’s hard to say that they took a spot from a team more deserving.

Look at the usual suspects from the national leagues. Competition for Champions League places in these organizations is already heated. And now, one of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool would miss the CL every season. In Spain, there are Real, Barca, Valencia, Sevilla, and Villarreal, among others. In Italy (after Juve returns from Serie B), there’s AC Milan, Inter, Roma, and Juve. Every year, one of the biggest names in club football, if not more than one, will miss out on its biggest tournament.

It wouldn’t kill the competition, but it certainly wouldn’t help competition or revenue. As Johansson himself repeatedly said, why change a success? Why try and kill the goose laying you golden eggs?

I still find it hard to believe that the G-14, the organization made up of the largest clubs and stalking horse of European football, would agree to or ever allow this to happen. Their clubs would be those that will lose places and revenue. England especially, as the bulk of television revenue comes from the UK.

I’m sincerely hoping Platini’s proposal is campaign trail talk and nothing more. Pleasantries and empty promises to encourage the smaller national associations to vote for him. Because I firmly believe that it would be to the detriment of the tournament to take these teams out of the Champions League. Primarily, you’re losing a big name that will bring fans and revenue to the tournament, more so than any team that would replace them, but it’s more than that.

It will not help winners from smaller nations last longer in the Champions League. Chances are, those teams will still lose to bigger opposition, whether it’s the 3rd or 4th placed team from said country. And it will not increase the visibility and viability of the UEFA Cup. There will always be only one Champions League.

Not to mention that traveling down this road will bring UEFA in direct competition with its biggest clubs and the G-14. Fostering these divisions cannot be good for the game, simple as.

If Platini’s proposal was already law, Liverpool wouldn’t have won the CL in 2005. There would have been no Garcia wonder-goal against Juve, no ‘did it cross the line?’ controversy against Chelsea, and no greatest comeback in European Cup history. Liverpool fan or not, there’s reason enough.

But hey, Sepp Blatter fully supports and endorses Platini, so everything must be fine.

No comments :